30 in 15: Nash set for electric season under Vigneault
Wednesday, 09.25.2013 / 3:00 AM
GREENBURGH, N.Y. -- Rick Nash isn't the type of guy that typically wears his emotions on his sleeve. He's calm and calculated, especially in front of the media. He doesn't usually say much and he almost never says something controversial.
But sometimes Nash's body language will do the talking for him, and that's why it's obvious that he can't wait to get going in Alain Vigneault's up-tempo, offensive system.
Nash, who once scored 40 goals with the defensive-oriented Ken Hitchcock as his coach in Columbus, could be in line for a monster season for the Rangers.
"Yeah, it's exciting," Nash said straight-faced. "I played against him quite a bit, playing in the West [for the Columbus Blue Jackets]. He's got an up-tempo style, but his teams are always sound defensively too. So it's been fun so far."
It's not like Nash was a failure last season playing in the more defensive-minded system the New York Rangers used under former coach John Tortorella. He had 21 goals and 42 points in 44 games.
But even though Nash says it wasn't the case, it seemed at times he was being stifled and wasn't able to find the consistency he was looking for. That was especially true in the Stanley Cup Playoffs, when Nash was held to one goal in 12 games.
Part of the blame could fall on the lack of training camp because of the lockout. Some of it also could be attributed to Nash trying to get used to a new team, a new conference and a new city after nine seasons in Columbus. It didn't help that Nash lacked chemistry with any of the Rangers centers until his old teammate, Derick Brassard, arrived in a trade from Columbus in early April.
Brassard flourished and had 12 points in the playoffs, but Nash couldn't seem to get it going at all.
"I can't comment to what he's done here, but I can comment to what he did in Columbus when he played against Vancouver," Vigneault said. "That was a guy who one-on-one was so hard to contain. If he ever got a half step on you and you weren't in a situation where you could outnumber him defensively, he could take that puck right to the net. With his hands a lot of times they were Grade A scoring chances, and a lot of times they were in the back of the net. There is a guy who has size, skill and the willingness to go to the hard areas and play."
It's up to Vigneault and assistant coach Scott Arniel to put Nash in those areas on the power play, a problematic area for the Rangers last season and not helped by Nash, who had three power-play goals.
The Rangers' power play was 23rd in the League at 15.7 percent.
"I noticed Rick was in a lot of different places, as were a few other players," Arniel said.
Arniel knows because he watched every one of the Rangers' power plays from last season after getting hired as Vigneault's assistant coach in early July.
"I just think we're going to try to get him in the best place possible, and more than likely that's somewhere to be out in front of that net, whether that's in that high slot or around the front of the net area," Arniel added. "He's got one of the quickest releases in the game. He's a big man and he knows how to protect that puck. He can keep it away from people. I know what he can do. I know some of the best places for him."
And Arniel knows that because he coached Nash for one and a half seasons in Columbus.
"Arnie is great," Nash said of Arniel. "We had a great relationship in Columbus and he was only there a short time, which was unfortunate because I really liked him as a coach. I'm definitely excited he's here."
He seems equally excited about having Vigneault here too. The feeling is mutual.
"I can't comment on what he did before here, but I do know he's one of the elite players in the NHL," Vigneault said. "He wants to help this team win and he's going to do everything I tell him to help this team win."
He was trying to do the same thing under Tortorella, but Vigneault's system could wind up fitting Nash much better.
"With his size and his ability it's scary what he can do," Rangers captain Ryan Callahan said. "Expectations are what they always are for him."